Boyd has a child on the way. With bills looming, he takes a job in the Hobart Mine. Boyd’s father died in the mines, so the decision to enter the labyrinth of tunnels leaves him uneasy. Working in the lowest level of the mine, a shaft opens up. A small party of volunteers—including Boyd—drop down into the shaft to explore. What they find is a massive cavern full of fossils, including corals, crinoids and a forest of huge limestone trees. Sealed since prehistory, the cavern is a graveyard from the end of the Paleozoic Era.
When a cave-in traps the search party, sealing them in the dark, they discover that they’re not alone. Something has been waiting for centuries in the black depths. Something lonely. And deadly.
Tim Curran’s The Underdwelling (Dark Fuse, 2012) is not your average trapped-miners saga. The novella features Curran’s straight-forward prose, likeable characters and quick pacing, but the real stars of the story are the setting and a plot with a payoff.
Curran’s setting caught me off guard. A potent mix of science and fantasy sold me on the premise. The cavern imagery stuck with me for days.
And the ending was incredibly disturbing. Things end badly for Boyd. (This is a spoiler, but not much of one. The Underdwelling is, after all, horror.) But horror, like the Hobart Mine, has more than one level, and the novella’s payoff works on all of them.
Curran’s fine novella is available in a Kindle collection called Blood, Bones and Bullets. The other two novellas are good reads—an excellent introduction to a bright voice in the horror field. (Five stars out of five)